Through the school-based substance abuse prevention work we offer at Freedom Institute I constantly connect the dots between bullying and early substance use. How are two seemingly separate topics woven in together? Bullying behavior, like early substance use, can be viewed as a means for young people to gain social status, manage feelings, and indicate that a young person may need more parental attention.
When I meet with students we discuss why young people may resort to either behavior (depending on the topic of the day) to get their emotional needs met. The we delineate together what other, healthier, ways young people can get these needs met to prevent resorting to behavior that can harm themselves or others. As is the case with early substance use, bullying prevention efforts focus on increasing the already current protective factors in a young person’s life.
What are protective factors? Healthy emotional connections between young people and their families, positive peer relationships, and a school environment in which students feel physically and psychically safe. Additionally, we like to help young people, parents, and teachers have the resources to best intervene when necessary.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently posted about the link between early substance use and bullying. (As an aside, this month is not only Anti-Bullying Awareness Month but also National Substance Abuse Prevention Month). I encourage everyone to read their through post on the link between bullying and early substance use.
Kid with beer photo available from Shutterstock